By Ivan Mwine
Crafty officials at Equity Bank Uganda are at it again and many of them face arrest for allegedly illegally deducting millions of shillings from Ugandan customers’ accounts through fraudulent transactions.
It has come to the attention of the public that several Equity Bank clients around the country have been complaining about this fraudulent practice, although their efforts to seek redress from the police, Bank of Uganda, Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and other concerned government authorities have for long been ignored.
This is not the first time that the public have faulted the Central Bank and FIA for neglecting to execute their roles as regulatory authorities by bringing to order banks that have defrauded the public through dubious activities pertaining bank accounts. Many of these affected clients, after failing to get redress about this fraud, have since resorted to exposing the fraudulent bank through social media rants.
The latest case in point is that of Angella Namatovu, who alleges that officials at Equity Bank deducted Shs5000,000 from her account No. 1010100909543 between 18th and 20th June, 2022 and when she went to the bank to withdraw the money, they told her she had withdrawn it via an ATM Machine transaction and that it was done using her card number 4860xxxx9407 via a “Zazu Africa limited” (merchant)website.
However, Namatovu, who is currently stranded because she wanted to use the money in question to pay to fly her ill mother to Nairobi, Kenya, for a scheduled operation, got shocked, because she had never used the Equity Bank online financial services.
As if that was not enough, the Equity Bank officials told Namatovu that she had used her phone number 267 788 286 750 to execute the online financial transaction, yet she doesn’t own the said telephone number, something that bewildered her.
Left with no choice, Namatovu, who says her efforts to seek redress from the police, BoU and Equity Bank were all futile, took to social media and published the following statement;
“Behind the success and mega expansion of Equity bank are tears of defrauded customers whose money they steal to expand.
I take this profound opportunity to inform all my friends and family that since i started complaining about theft of my money that was meant for my mother’s operation yesterday 1st/ July/ 2022 in Nairobi. I was blocked from replying messages so when u inbox me a message on Facebook I can’t reply u back. When i insist on the replies they just block u.
As if that wasn’t enough today’s morning, I was also banned from using WhatsApp, I can’t even trace anything so now I have no ways of communicating. But that shall not break my strength and determination to demand for what belongs to me, Now the next thing shall be completely blocking my lines when i can’t even make a call. If u see me offline just know that’s the cause but my friends keep the candle burning i can’t let my mum die because Equity Bank Uganda defrauded the money, of which they aren’t lending me but the money i sweat for. Now yesterday we failed to travel because money isn’t enough”
When i tried to go to their loans department they gave me strict terms and condition that weren’t favourable so i failed to get it, i couldn’t afford having a land title nor an agreement for land. I call upon all Authorities to come up for my rescue to see my mother live again.
I decided to go people’s court it seems there’s justice than we’re i have been the only Authority that cannot be bribed.
However, when she published the statement, Equity Bank came up with a rebuttal, saying that; “Our attention has been drawn to messages circulating on social media in relation to a complaint of fraudulent activity on the account of our customer.
We would like to clarify as follows;
The customer reported to the Bank a suspected fraudulent withdrawal of funds from her account between June 18th to 20th 2022 amounting to UShs5.1Mn in three instalments using her ATM Card.
Card Transactions approval is made using card details and a onetime password which is sent to the registered mobile phone. Our customer said she was in possession of her card and mobile phone during the period when the transaction happened.
The Bank is working with our card partner and law enforcement agencies to establish what happened and who could have used her card and phone to execute the transactions in question.
We have been in touch with our customer and have kept her briefed on the progress.
We would like to assure our customers and the public that the Bank’s platform security and safety of customer funds remain our priority.
We once again advice all our customers and the public to NEVER share their card details, PINS, ID and passwords of their bank and mobile phones with anyone.”
However, in reply to the Bank’s rebuttal, Namatovu issued the following statement;
“Dear members of Public, yesterday I read lies in a statement released by Equity Bank Uganda in reference to fraud in their bank I complained about when money was withdrawn from my account without my consent on June 18th and 20th, 2022. Their image can only be cleared by vomiting my money so that I can take my sick mum for the scheduled operation. They showed a degree of careless, how can money be stolen from a client’s account who entrusted you with its safety?”
The Bank alleges that she reported loss of the money from her account, something she refutes, saying;
“I clearly told them, I am always in possession of my card and no one, be it my sick mum knows where I keep it or even my pin number. The complaint I logged to Equity Bank Uganda, to Bank of Uganda, to CID Headquarters, to KMP and other security organs was very clear. My money which I kept with Equity Bank was withdrawn under unclear circumstances which the Bank MUST explain without hiding their heads under the sand.”
She asserts that Equity bank told her that someone in Zambia bought electrical appliances from Zazu Africa limited using her ATM card, an explanation she rubbishes as nonsense because she has never travelled abroad.
“So how did someone in sijui Zambia hoodwink Equity Bank and they give him or her client’s money? That put aside, who is stealing customers’ money in Equity Bank from their clients’ accounts? How come, such cases are very common with Equity Bank alone?” Namatovu wondered.
A very determined Namatovu added that; “Therefore, the only thing Equity Bank has to do to be out of this circus, is by putting back my money and also, work on the security of clients’ money. Let them stop their foul play.” Namatovu’s statement reads.”
“And call upon the public to disregard statement released by Equity Bank Uganda, for it is based on nothing but lies. I will continue demanding for justice using all legal methods and I thank the general public for standing with me. Today it’s me, tomorrow they will chop your money, similar way,” Namatovu concluded.
Following the scandal, Namatovu has since instructed her lawyers of Mugarura, Kwarisima and Co. Advocates to write a letter to Equity Bank, demanding a refund of her money.
The demand notice reads in part thus;
“Our instructions are, to demand as we hereby do, that you refund our client’s money, to a tune of Ug. Shs5,126,421/= (Five million one hundred twenty-six thousand four hundred twenty one shillings), pay our client in special and general damages amounting to Ug. Shs. 5,000,000/= (Five million shillings) as well as our legal fees of Ug. Shs. 2,000,000/= (Two Million Shillings) and provide a public apology to our client.”
The lawyers add that; “It is well within your knowledge that on the 18th June and 20th June 2022, our client’s bank account with you, vide acc. No. 1010100909543 was debited in the sums of Ug. Shs. 2,330,192/= (two million three hundred thirty thousand one hundred ninety-one shillings), Ug. Shs. 2, 330,199/= (two million three hundred thirty thousand one hundred ninety-one shillings) and Ug. Shs. 466,039/= (Four hundred sixty-six thousand thirty-nine shillings) respectively. Should you fail to heed to our demand within 7 days from of the date of receipt of this letter, we shall have no other choice but to institute civil proceedings against you.”
However, clients dealing with commercial banks are set to find a difficult time trying to seek justice whenever money is fraudulently deducted from their accounts.
This comes after the High Court ruled that bank clients are solely responsible for the security of their accounts and that banks are not liable to any fraudulent transactions on customers’ accounts because they (banks) put in place strict security measures which are usually compromised by the clients.
The development is entailed in a ruling by Justice Stephen Mubiru, in a case involving Centenary Bank and a client identified as Aida Atiku, who accuses the bank officials of illegally deducting Shs50M from her account without her consent.
In his ruling, Justice Mubiru faulted Atiku for compromising the security of her account by giving her daughter her mobile phone, yet the sim car in the phone was directly linked to her account and could be used to execute transactions.
He thus stated that bank clients ought to keep details about their accounts private, because fraud in banks is as a result of clients’ carelessness with their account details like IDs, PIN numbers and passwords.